The Hollisters are a family in crisis. Mom and Dad have stuck through thick and thin -- lost jobs, drinking bouts and unfinished plays -- and have swallowed their pride to return to her family's homestead. One teen-age daughter puts her desires for a piano career above any sympathy for the family's dilemmas. The other daughter has enough naive spunk and wholesome sensitivity to solve everyone's problems.
The Hollisters are the character centerpieces of "King's Crossing," a new series that premieres with a special 90-minute movie on Channel 7 tonight at 8. Into their whirl of family troubles are introduced a snappish spinster aunt with a "secret" in the attic, a teen-aged stablehand, whose wisdom and wit keeps the youth dynamics rolling, a black housekeeper, who takes turns at protecting everybody, and an orchestra conductor who is ready to use a girl's hunger for recognition.
Fortunately, the creators leveled an even, at times exceptional, hand in creating the Hollisters' world. The viewers will not be given a steamy Saturday night version of "Dallas," where double-dealing precedes the family grace, or hilarious hijinks that seem only to bless the lives of sitcom families. Through most of their introduction, the Hollisters are cast in reality, a nuclear family sticking it out, taking deep breaths and hoping that somehow, this time, the same old problems will work out.
The drama opens with a flashback to three pajama-clad girls sneaking down to their grandmother's coffin and taking her ring, pledging to send the jewelry as a signal if they need one another. The tone of mystery is not a sustained one but an appropriate beginning. Family squabbles are tangles of suspense and the creators use other leisurely placed symbols -- a light in the window, a piano, etched crosses on the front door, a horse and a typewriter to convey the poetry of the story's puzzles.
Bradford Dillman, who plays the father, Paul Hollister, successfully entices sympathetic and critical responses to the pain of his drinking and writer's block. With his youngster daughter, Carey, played by Marilyn Jones, he is playful and genuine. They make bets on guessing the authors of poetic quotations. When he comes intoxicated to his high school teaching job after an unsuccessful night at the typewriter, he cries over Chekhov's death. Here Dillman is properly pitiful, and the responses of the students are tears and discomfort, not mockery.
The best of the adolescent flare-ups and flirtations are portrayed through Carey, and Billy McCall, played by Daniel Zippi, who takes her through the traumas of a new school, as well as the peculiarities of her relatives. The selfishness and deceit of the other daughter Lauren get a tepid treatment from Linda Hamilton, who uses her suggestive, saucer eyes more than her acting talent. Once more depth is added to the other characters, the Hollisters of "King's Crossing" could provide a compelling distraction from the viewers' real problems.